Operation Lifesaver

Operation Lifesaver is a nonprofit public safety education and awareness organization that reduces collisions, fatalities and injuries involving trains at railway crossings and trespassing on or near railroad tracks. The vision of this organization is to have a recognized leader in the public with railroad safety education by putting an end to death and injuries due to trespassing on near or railroad tracks (www.oli.org).

The history of Operation Lifesaver dates back in the early 1970s. In 1972, the Idaho State Highway Patrol along with then-Governor Cecil Andrus and Union Pacific Railroad mounted a campaign to promote the “Stop, Look and Listen” safety at highway-rail grade crossings. During that time, they gathered four initials teams to spread awareness of railroad safety. Those teams are the civic groups, school groups, school bus drivers and truck drivers. With that, Idaho experienced at 43%reduction in fatalities in the first year (en.wikipedia.org).

In 2018, Operation Lifesaver has provided Rail Safety Week by planning the observance which encourages safe behavior near railroad tracks. However, Government statistics reveal that collisions and trespass deaths had increased and the nonprofit organization is still working hard to end the railroad collisions and deaths in the United States today. There had been many numbers of collisions, fatalities and injuries increasing in the population of train accidents. In 1981, there were about 9,461 collisions followed by 728 fatalities and 3,293 injuries. In 2017 there were about 2,122 collisions, 271 fatalities and 844 injuries. Last year, the numbers increased with 2,214 collisions, 270 fatalities and 819 injuries. Many peoples lose their lives in trains accidents and yet the numbers of collisions, fatalities and injuries today in 2019 are unknown and it is unclear of how many deaths involving trains had occurred (www.oli.org).

Now it is time to introduce you to the signs, morals and tips on Railroad Safety.

There are many different signs you see when there is a railroad crossing ahead in the road. The yellow sign, shaped like a circle has a black “X” with two capital “R’s” on each side. This sign is an advised warning sign of a railroad crossing. After that, you will see a sign with an “X”. That sign is called a crossbuck. The crossbuck has the words “Railroad Crossing” on different lines indicating you must yield when approaching the tracks.

You will also see a pavement marking of the railroad crossing on the road as well as a fifteen feet line which shows drivers the correct distance at where to stop. Along with the crossbuck, there are lights that flash back and forth, gates that lower and move upward and bells that ring. These devices let you know you need to stop and wait for the train to go by.

Other yield signs can also be used for railroad property especially at private crossing. For trucks and buses, there is a special devices attached to the electronic crossbuck, lights and gates called a cantle lever. The cantle lever helps buses and truck drivers see the lights and crossbuck for a better view when approaching the tracks, because of the height of their vehicle. There is even a sign with a figure running on the tracks with the “Not allowed” symbol on it. This means trespassing is dangerous and illegal, stay off railroad tracks. Down the line, there are audimic signals with three lights that tell the engineer when to go, slow down or stop. Those signals can also be seen at a far distance when approaching the tracks.

Furthermore, there is another yellow sign that can be seen below the advised warning sign. This sign is called “No Train Horns”; which means the locomotive is not allowed to blow the horn when approaching the railroad crossing. The last sign you will see below the crossbuck or the advance warning sign is a blue sign with the number of the railroad. It will help you avoid an accident with a train and can often be seen in case there is an emergency.

Here are some railroad rules and morals that can help you stay safe around trains.

Trains can run on the tracks in anywhere at anytime. There go where the rails take them and are much quieter than the locomotives of yesterday. They cannot swerve when there is a vehicle or person in the way. When approaching the railroad crossing, always look for trains, listen for the sounds of the horn and bells and live.

Do not judge the speed of a train. For a car, it takes about 200 ft and 55 mph for the driver to come to a complete stop. However, it takes a train about 5,280 ft and a full mile or more to stop; which is about 18 football fields. A train running over a car is like a car running over a can of coke. You control the situation, not the train. Follow the safety rules involving railroad crossing and pay attention so you wouldn’t be crushed like the can of coke.

If your car gets stuck on the track, move it off the track. If not, get out fast and move away from the tracks. Afterwards, call the number on the blue sign immediately. If the train approaches your car at the last minute get out or the sign is not around, call 911.

You should never walk, run, hike or walk your pet on the tracks. This will put you in danger of a train coming especially with music on too loud. Never play or ride a bike and an automobile on the tracks. When doing so, you will get hit by a train. You should never cross an area where there no railroad signs. It is illegal and the railroad is private property. By its massive size, the locomotive and it’s line of cars hangover at about 3 ft on each sides when traveling down the line at top speed up to 55 mph.

Stay away from railroad bridges and out of tunnels. There is no room for you to go when a train comes and you may not be able to get out of the way in time. Do not stop on the tracks. This will block the train from moving forward and traffic will come to a stop. Do not try to beat the train or play chicken near the railroad tracks. This not just cheating death, but cheating life itself.

In quiet zones, trains are not allowed to blow the horn and the active warning devices and sounds are the only warning you will receive when approaching the railroad crossing with a no train horn sign. If you approach a quiet zone, stop at the crossing and listen for the sounds of the bells on the active warning devices. Just because a train cannot blow it’s horn in a quiet zone, doesn’t mean the coast is clear and that it’s ok to go around the gates.

An example I can give is at a time when my dad and I were in Dekalb, IL and the railroad crossing we approached was in a quiet zone. There, we stop at the flashing lights and gates and we hear the sound of a train from a speaker with only one pitch of the horn of a locomotive. That is called a wayside horn. I was happy about that and I accepted the fact that wayside horns in Dekalb IL are used for the approach of a train when it enters the quiet zone and does not blow the horn.

Don’t stand too close to the crossing area when waiting for a train to go by. Stand way back at about fifteen feet on the sidewalk. Always walk your bike and scooter and carry your skateboard across the railroad track and get off when approaching the crossing signal. Riding on those things without stopping is dangerous and you can easily get killed. Take off electronics when approaching a crossing signal and walking across the tracks.

Never put any object on the track or throw it at a train. Placing things on the track like a nickel can come back like a bolt and hurt you, because the track becomes very hot when a train runs by. You can even get arrested for throwing things at a passenger or an engineer. Never play around the crossing area or with a railroad switch.

A train can hit you in seconds and playing with or around a switch can put you in danger of an oncoming train. Never play on the platform at a passenger station or around trains that are not moving. It is illegal and trains can move at the last minute the horn blasts and the bell starts ringing. You can even get hurt when playing on the platform and the accidents that are more deadly on the railroad are falling into the subway train rails and getting shocked by electricity.

No crawling under the freight cars or passenger cars. You can get crushed by the movement dying within seconds or get injured. It is not safe to climb inside a box car. There may be dangerous things inside that can hurt you or if you are locked inside, you will be shipped around the country for miles with no food or water. Do not spray graffiti on railroad cars especially box cars. It is illegal and like throwing things at a passenger or an engineer, you get arrested by the authorities. Do not use the railroad as a shortcut or a death sentence. It is a terrible way to die and it could not only hurt your friends, family and community, but the train crew as well and investigations of suicide on the tracks can go on for a long time.

Always stop at a railroad crossing when riding in a vehicle. If you’re in a hurry, keep calm and wait for the train to go by. Remember, it’s important to pay attention to the railroad signs and be patient when waiting for the train to disappear down the main line. Stop at 15 feet away from the tracks and wait for the lights to turn off after the gates are fully above the road again.

Railroad safety is important, because it can help children, teens and adults with how to be safe around trains. The main moral for Operation Lifesaver is “Look, listen and live!”. It can be seen on anything such as locomotives, a caboose in Canada and anywhere else. The second more is “Stay off, stay away, stay alive!”. This means that people should stay off the tracks, stay away from trains and live. The last moral is “See tracks? Think train!”. When when see tracks, we need to think about what we see down the line and what can happen if we put ourselves in danger with a train.

Accidents can happen anywhere at any time on the tracks and I hear about them on the internet or on TV.

For more information, visit the the website of Operation Lifesaver at www.oli.org. Be safe and remember, tracks are for trains, NOT for playing games!